Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days
Book of a Thousand Days
Shannon Hale

Scholastic, 2007 306 pgs  

Grades 5-8

Dashti, a low-class "mucker" turned servant, is sent with the young lady she serves to a tower where they are held prisoner with the rats and limited supplies.  The noble lady, Saren, has promised herself to neighboring lord, Tegus, while an evil lord has set her sights on her.  When Tegus arrives to rescue Saren, it is Dashti who communicates with him, developing a friendship under the guise of being Saren.  Tegus fails to rescue the girls and Dashti leads a brave escape out of the tower and through a war-torn land, where their home kingdom is no more.  They travel onto Tegus' kingdom, landing positions in the castle as pot scrubbers.  Dashti's talents as a mucker healer come to light and she is sent to the lord to heal him of his pains.  Eventually, a new friendship is formed.  Dashti poses as Saren to try to save Tegus's life from the evil lord and protect her lady.  She defeats the evil lord single-handed, using cunning and mucker magic and becomes betrothed to Tegus as Lady Saren.  After it is revealed that she is an impostor, Dashsti finds herself in prison.  A satisfyingly happy ending ensues, leaving the reading to breath a sign of relief and hope for more adventures in this magical land with these interesting people.

My daughter handed me this book begging me to read it.  She claimed it was "her favorite book ever" and wanted to share it with someone.  She also confessed that half way through she had to stop and read the last page because it was making her too anxious.  So, I dropped what I was reading and plunged into Book of a Thousand Days.  I was not disappointed.  Shannon Hale is the queen of the reworked fairy tale.  This offering is based on a little known Grimm fairy tale (Maid Maleen?)and set in medieval Mongolia, with all its Gods and superstitions.  The setting was different and cool.  The fantasy element is very believable and feels like it really could have existed in that civilization at that time in history.  The book is broken into two distinct parts: the imprisonment in the tower and then the girl's later adventures.  It starts a little slow and then became a huge page turner.  Dashti is a wonderful and likable character and the reader really starts to care about her.  She has spunk, determination, and courage and through all the troubles, always remains positive.  Like Dashti, we honestly start to hate Saren, but luckily the lady redeems herself by the end.  This book would appeal more to girls than boys.  It offers light fantasy, a fast moving plot and just enough romance to appeal to tweens, while remaining appropriate.  Book of a Thousand Days is perfect to curl up with in front of a fire on a cold winter's day and escape into a truly magical place.

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